Hard to believe it’s already March tomorrow! Let’s take a moment and catch up with some of our favorite 12 on Tuesdays from the year so far.
You have been in numerous dance groups. What do you enjoy about dancing? Dance has been and is still a very big part of my life. I’ve been in the dance industry for more than 17 years. Gracing many stages locally such as Overture Center of the Arts all the way to BET!
It’s something I can truly say got me over many hard times; it’s funny how a given talent can sometimes give life.
I founded Crushin’ All Force Dance Team on January 3, 2003 and because of great success and the sendoff of many students to college. I was recognized by a National Championship Dance Organization by the name of House Arrest 2 Inc. HA2 is a profound dance team with 14 chapters across America in well-known cities such as Chicago, and campuses such as Florida Aquaculture & Mechanical University.
I founded Chapter 12 of HA2 the BoneCRUSHer Chapter on October 5, 2010 on the campus of Madison College. We are well-known and respected in our community not only for our dance ability but the work we’ve given back to the community. Connecting with other like orgs such as 100 Black Men to Toys for Tots. We are way more than just a dance team!
“Dance like nobody is watching”- Juan Frazier Founder of HA2 Inc
On Facebook, you posted a video challenging Pastors to do more in the Community. What made you post that video and what can pastors do to address some on the today’s issues? That big mouth of mines! I challenged pastors in my community to step-up after encountering what I felt like was an unpleasant moment with an individual from our homeless community.
When my family first arrived to Madison in 1992, I can’t remember a time where homelessness reached the streets, where individuals were sleeping outside in frigid weather. I’m not saying that this issue is brand new; however what happened to the resources that somewhat handled this issue in our community?
I’m a church boy and from what I know from the word of God, Deuteronomy 26:12 KJV “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.” Our greater Madison area pastors love to preach “pay tithes, pay tithes.” We are doing that. However, why, when we leave the church, no more than several blocks later a veteran is on the corner needing money for food and shelter?
Our pastors must do better. I’ve had a few people from different churches proclaim to be doing just that and I ask those same individuals if your church is doing these great things why do we still have individuals sleeping outside? We have a ton of black congregations and many continue to form however no black-operated shelters nor even a simple soup kitchen. We must do better!
If I had to sum up the black congregations in this community I would have to say ruthless, uncharitable, hard-hearted, unforgiving, mocked-up, boring and exhausted. No this is not a lash-out for attention or a personal attack. It’s a call for action to the black clergy to all sit at one table with their many resources to fix some of these community issues.
Rank your Top 5 MCs. Based on my appearance, people always assume that I am conservative. They are often surprised to learn that I love rap music.
I am a huge Notorious BIG fan. He was a masterful storyteller, and having grown up on the southside of Chicago, his music speaks so authentically to the experiences of many people I know.
Jay Z is also a personal favorite. Oh My God really gets me moving at the gym and his collaboration with Kanye on Otis is pure genius. I loved it the first time I heard it.
I am obsessed with Eminem. Lose Yourself is my personal hype song. I listen to it whenever I have something that I need to get mentally psyched for. I think Pink is a phenomenal artist. When those two collaborate on “Won’t Back Down” it’s bad a##
I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out. LL is underrated as an MC, but he has the goods.
What does it mean to be black in Oshkosh? It’s isolating.
Oshkosh is a town whose dominant White leadership is in denial about racism. I think largely because the Black population here is so small. They see the problems with race as something happening “over there”—in places like Milwaukee and Madison—despite the fact that data shows the entire state suffers from racialized disparities in all of its systems.
The few visible Blacks—most deemed by Whites as “leaders” of the Black community along with those hoping to be relevant to the dominant culture gained acceptance because they are complicit. They have co-opted the “go along to get along” strategies that many Blacks are forced to adopt for survival. It’s not uncommon to hear sentiments from these Blacks like, “We are happy here in Oshkosh. What’s YOUR problem?”
One such Black woman in particular has been adopted by Oshkosh leadership as the voice of Black people at the table because she ascribes to the mantra that all of the Black people in Oshkosh have “moved from places like Chicago and Milwaukee to take advantage of the welfare system” despite the fact that she claims to be a Chicago transplant herself
Amongst others, our current Mayor was all too happy to report to me—as if he had some kind of epiphany about the Black experience—the jewel of wisdom she imparted at a “diversity and inclusion” meeting organized by two White City Councilmen that I declined to attend. The Mayor reported her as saying, “They (apparently referring to Black people) need to pull their pants up.”
She has since been invited by leadership several meeting to be the singular voice at the table for the Black community.
So, on both sides, I am considered an antagonist who is causing problems when I am, in fact, a Black leader who is tracking systemic and data-driven root causes of racism and requiring my community to do something about it for the betterment of everyone.
You recently graduated from UW Madison. What three tips would you give them to help with race relations on campus?
- Find your people: having a strong village is crucial to surviving and managing your mental, emotional, spiritual, etc health. Join a church, join a student organization, join an initiative under a diversity office on campus; find some place where you can meet like-minded people so you feel less alone and more capable of completing the journey.
- Be honest with yourself: College really is not for everyone, and I don’t say that to say it’s only for the strongest or the smartest. I say that because I saw many who were too strong or too smart to be invalidated by the industry of education. Some folks forgot what they were capable of and underestimated their own power, so if your major, or your career choice, or your UW-Madison, or higher education as whole isn’t for you that’s okay.
- Have fun: Over the years I have seen a heightened urgency to activate against the campus racial climate and hit the ground to do their part to solve the problem. While this has been amazing to watch and be a part of I do find it to be exhausting. Students of color are having to work twice as hard as their white counterparts while also doing the extra work of creating and maintaining their own safe spaces. It’s important to also find joy, joy that isn’t centered around or in response to your existence as an outlier on campus.
You could do anything in the world. Why become a journalist? I became a journalist because I intend to do all the “anythings in the world” I am capable of doing as it contributes to the holistic liberation of Black folks. For me, journalism allows me to address the problems I do know through telling people’s story and truth, but it also allows me to learn about the problems I don’t know by getting to listen to so many stories and truths.
Only four percent of architects in the United States are African America. How are you using hip hop to increase those numbers? Currently I am traveling the around the country to colleges, universities and various conferences on a Hip Hop Architecture Lecture Tour. The purpose of the lecture tour is to provide a new area of study for minority students in hopes of increasing the retention rates of African Americans in Schools of Architecture. My lectures are very non-traditional; I often travel with a DJ who spins as I lecture. I’ve lectured with a number of DJ’s including my best friend, Eryk “The Arch-E-Tech” Christian who also has a degree in architecture and the legendary Grandwizard Theodore, who invented scratching.
Last but not least, the current project I’m designing, The Universal Hip Hop Museum, has allowed me to show the next generation how important architecture is to creating the spaces and places we want to see in our communities and the places needed for preservation of our culture. While working on that project, I have sought non-traditional publications like The Fader and Vibe. Publications I know African Americans have more access to, unlike traditional architecture magazines.
What advice would you give to the Madison Metropolitan School District when it comes to using hip hop to help close their achievement gap? Relying on Hip Hop Culture to be a catalyst for effectively engaging youth is actually an inclusive model which will benefit all students in the district. The largest consumers of Hip Hop culture are young white suburban males, who consume nearly 80 percent of hip hop music. While the producers and constituents of Hip Hop Culture are mainly African American and Latino.
The best advice I can give MMSD about incorporating Hip Hop Culture to close the achievement gap is not to “use” hip hop culture as a gimmick. MMSD should recognize the creative genius in their African American students who constantly propel the culture through innovative fashion and language, which is constantly emulated around The City, The State, the country and the world! Last, I suggest MMSD invite hip hop educators and cultural experts, who have created curriculum around the culture, to the table to help overcome the achievement gaps.
How did you come up with the persona Unapologetically Bria Bea? I started my channel as Bria Bea. I started it the year my great Grandma Bea turned 100. So, that was the beginning of it all! I got sick of writing long, passionate facebook statuses so instead I wanted to have a place to talk about my frustrations with the world. It was around a time where there the Black Lives Matter movement was really picking up mainstream attention and I had a lot of feelings to talk about and a lot of issues I wanted to talk about.
At some point, I realized I wanted to try my hand at comedy, which is entirely what my channel is now. I was also not being my full unapologetic self during my first 6-8 months of being on YouTube. I was shy at the beginning of this process. I added ‘Unapologetically’ to remind myself to do me to the highest degree when I was creating these videos, because that’s what I wanted to do and the messaged I needed to convey to other folks, especially black girls who are often told they’re too much and who learn from an early stage that being themselves, unapologetically, is wrong, punishable, or undesirable.
I want to entirely get rid of that idea.
How and why did you become a vegan? I went vegan after I spent a winter vacation during college reading about veganism and the animal agriculture industry. I’m super passionate about learning about social issues and I ignored the ‘animal agriculture’ one for a long time and so when I decided to really dive in and learn about it and take action in my own way. So, once I made the decision, I went vegan the next day…on Christmas eve, actually. I’m not perfect by any means. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve bought granola bars assuming they are vegan only to be disappointed later.
Who is Gail Ford? A black girl from the West side of Detroit, whose life was disrupted by the curses of the inner city; foster care kid, younger brother killed by the police at 16, parents victims to the crack epidemic, but I AM determined to choose my own destiny and live my best life.
Every morning I sing myself a song. I wrote the song a year ago to remind myself of who I AM and how I want to show-up in the world, here are the lyrics.
I AM Love, I AM JOY, I AM Peace today. I believe in myself, good things are coming my way, I AM Happy, I AM Health, I AM Safe today, and if I forget it I just stop and say…
I repeat the song as many times as I need to in order to get to center.
You work at UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program. Why is the people program important and needed at UW? The program is designed to serve students of color and low-income populations. The Race to Equity Report says Dane county has a 57.3% African American child poverty rate. The most effective way to disrupt the generational cycles of poverty is to put the next generation on a path to financial sustainability; that is more likely to happen if that generation has a college education. PEOPLE provides a resourced roadmap for the most vulnerable populations of this state to earn a college degree. An investment today in these youth is a benefit for the entire state as all Wisconsinites benefit from a more educated citizenry.